Have you heard of the Goa Carnaval? No, it isn't the same as Christmas and New Year festivities. Nor is it a euphemism for sunburn or a generic term referring to the 24x7 parties on Goa's beaches. Every year, just before Lent begins, the people of Goa go all out on festivities to usher in the 40 days of fasting and abstinence that is to follow. There are floats, parades, much dancing and singing, food and free-flowing wine – and Goa is transformed into a mini-Rio.
This year, in a bid to promote the 'Carnaval' as the next big tourist destination of the state, the government of Goa, in association with the ministry of tourism, has up-scaled the event into a mega-bash of sorts. In addition to the usual paraphernalia of masquerades and street festivities, the organisers have brought in a dash of Bollywood, a pinch of hi-fashion and a generous dollop of popular music from around the country. "Once King Momo, the central figure of the carnival, proclaims his rule over the state, the carnival begins. We are also reviving the culture and food festival, with participation from 7-8 other states, in terms of floats and food stalls, that will be put up in Panaji, Margao, Vasco and Mapusa", said Nikhil Desai, Director of Tourism, Goa Government, unveiling the event to a small press gathering this week.
The five-day event, from 8th to 12th February, will witness over 120 floats from different states and on various social issues, with a special one from Bollywood, to be graced by actors Neha Dhupia, Sayali Bhagat, Tanushree Dutta, Isha Koppikar, and others. Also, special performances by Remo Fernandes, Anushka Manchanda, Parikrama, Agnee, and Sonia Sirsat will complement the local acts. There will also be a fashion show by Wendell Rodricks, in which he plans to take the visitors on an imaginary journey to 15th century Goa. Along with vintage car rallies and a display by Harley Davidson bike riders among the highlights, the itinerary will keep visitors entertained throughout the duration of five days.
"It is a sad but true fact that the Goa Carnaval has been a neglected facet of the state's tourism, despite being a fascinating display of local flavour which is wonderful blend of Indian and European flavours. We figured it just needed to be re-packaged to bring in the tourists. As you know, Goa's peak season is from October to March for the foreign tourist. With this revamp, we are actually trying to lure the domestic tourist. We expect the number of visitors to double over last year's arrivals", noted Desai.